As I walked up the stairs to The Age headquarters in Melbourne, I passed under a giant screen proclaiming to-the-second news updates on a projected version of the newspaper’s masthead.
I realized the bubbles in my stomach were not just excitement, or anticipation – but curiosity filled quite a space. Questions were lapping at the edges of an otherwise (relatively) composed mind: What kind of people are behind those familiar bylines? Tom Arup. Jason Dowling. Melissa Fyfe. Clay Lucas. Will I get to meet them? Today? How does a newspaper company work –what kind of machine is it? Will they ask me to do photocopying? Will they wonder why I’m not wearing a collared shirt?
The lobby had glass walls, a shiny floor and high ceiling. Industrial-looking metal struts were visible from the inside, like internal scaffolding. It felt more like a big printing press than a CBD office. It was busy and smelled good, with a cafe on the ground floor.
The Age always held a special place in my family. My Mum used to mention its name as though she was speaking about an old friend: “Pop down the shop and grab The Age and some croissants, would you?” was a standard Saturday morning request. So it seemed about right that the security guards were smiley, like a welcoming party, and chatted while I waited to be collected.
Julz, who had sent me the paperwork for my work placement, greeted me and took me upstairs.
The first thing I noticed in the office was the open space –clean desks and quiet. Lawrence Money (Money’s Melbourne columnist) later joked it was like a hospital compared to the smoky, paper-stacked office he inhabited as a younger journalist at the same establishment. There’s no better job than this, he said. You’d be crazy to leave it. There was a paper-free policy, Julz informed me, and also people hot-desk. I sensed a bit of ‘don’t-mention-the-war’ in her voice.
The second thing I noticed was the way the editors shook my hand. Genuine interest in me and my potential but no flowery chit-chat or pretend interest. These people had respect for others, they had integrity, they were busy and focused and didn’t have time to care what kind of dog I have and I’m quite sure nobody cared that I wasn’t wearing a collared shirt. That said, they were kind and welcoming.
I was given a desk and a phone and had my passwords set.
A tall fellow with smiley eyes leaned over and introduced himself as Clay. Clay Lucas? I thought, but it seemed I’d said it out loud as he replied that yes, he is Clay Lucas, and how good it was to meet me. I introduced myself and I still can’t quite work out whether he pretended to know my name (he searched it while chatting) or if he really did think he’d heard of Nicky Moffat before.
Is there another Nicky Moffat? I wondered..maybe back in high school that girl I used to be, who wanted to be a journalist, did go off to Warnambool to study after all, and maybe for the last ten years she’s been out there making a name for us. Anything seemed possible, because I was in a dreamlike state. I felt like the kids who got to go to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – wide eyed with surprise at how wonderful the world had just become.
Within two hours of arrival on Day One I was given my first task. The ALP’s leadership ballot was coming up and there was a need for some grassroots Labor perspectives in the lead-up of this historic event. This turned out to be my first published article.
I was lucky to have seven stories published in my time at The Age. In coming posts I’ll reflect a little bit on what I learned researching and writing each one.